(photo © Alan Semerdjian && sculpture © Eileen Karakashian)
Dregs by Forrest
One of the very last things he said to me before he died was, I'm never cleaning this cup out. He took it off the table and placed it in the cupboard with all the clean dishware, and there it would sit forever in filthy repose, if I believed him. But he died soon after this so I didn't have the opportunity to find out if he would keep his word. I nearly asked his family at the funeral if they had come across any unwashed coffee cups when tending to his personal effects. Nothing good would've come from that, I figured. His sister, in particular, seemed overwhelmed by the number of inquiries made about him, his failing health, what had he been working on, why his wife had taken the kids and was nowhere to be found. These, I thought, were good questions. Much better than mine. And over the next few days, I felt incredibly foolish for my boiling down in memory all the pleasant moments spent with him into a dirty coffee cup. That cup had meant that much to him dirty, and I was there. Did this mean there was something about me that made the cup so important then. Sometimes, however, I think that was the day he decided to give up. It just wasn't worth the hassle anymore. He was letting it all go, and it really wasn't important. Neither was I. It will be an adjustment, to be sure, but I'm willing to have other people understand less about me if they stop asking his sister so many questions. She was never skilled at creating distractions for herself.
Fortune Telling by Alan
To overcome some great sadness, the feathered thing will rise from the ashes and circle the sky seventeen times. After, rain might fall. Or perhaps what I see are little bundles of tears. Or money. Or children. Yes, they are faces after all.
The curse that was mentioned last year when you were ten is still in play only now it has transformed into flowers. Be careful about the need to bend over and smell them. Be careful about bending over. See here, in the corner. The man that bends is surrounded by volcanoes. Above him and to his side. There’s a trail that was left from the last eruption. That’s where the flowers grow. That’s what he’s searching for.
Because it’s summer, at some point there will be fireworks. Yes, yes. This is where they will start. In the thickest part. Bring it to your lips to taste the earth. Near a river in the northwest part of an island. It’s a little dark, but I imagine when the sky clears up…wait a moment. What’s this? Oh no, no, no. Vartuhi, can you believe this? Come Sona, look at its size. Do you see the eye, Sevak? I almost missed it, but from this angle it looks larger than life. Someone is watching you. Scratch your ass to keep the bad spirits away. What’s that you say? You want the spirits? Here? Now?
Future Seeing by Sherisse
He wanted to show her what he knew. Always the good friend. The light was on, the air conditioner off, rain coming down hard and making everything outside blink. The plants on the table had gone to sleep for the night. “Give me your hands,” he said. “You can tell a lot just by looking at the nails, like how far you've walked and through what desert.” She imagined it was something much more banal, like whether she chewed or filed or painted them and, if so, what color. What that revealed about her femininity. This was already boring to her, tedious. She wanted to hide. He could tell something had faded in her. He tried harder to be entertaining. She let out a deep sneeze and, embarrassed, she said in a timid voice: “Oh, please excuse me.” Making something out of nothing. If this were a first draft, she would have thrown it in the garbage. She switched her hands after the sneeze. He giggled and was amused. He wanted to make the moment more real somehow, to make an imprint, to be remembered by her. “When you were a little girl, someone hurt you very badly,” he said. She looked away; she had not given him permission to touch that place. “Now what?” she asked, her eyes challenging him. She didn't know how to swim, had no intention of learning. “Now I tell you how to repair it,” he said softly. Repair what, she wanted to know. “The thing that's knotted,” he said softly. She pictured an ancient tree, a fallen limb beyond fixing. “No. Not like that,” he said. “Together we close our eyes. We locate the heart and ask it what it wants.” The word permission came to her mind. She'd been handed a permission slip. The dissolution of some old heartbreak? She felt utterly naked, kept her eyes shut for what felt like a very long time. Her skin was hot, everything was red, on fire, glowing, spinning. There was more to say to him, certainly, and to herself. If this were a first draft she would title it before throwing it in the trash. So much to say that, for now, it demanded silence, cynicism even. She freed herself from his grip, looked at her hands. Her fingernails were long, without color. She was aware of her breathing, the oranges in the basket on the kitchen table, her tongue pressing against the roof of her mouth.
Pyrotechny by Lyle
When I looked up from my cup of coffee, the fireworks had started. Maybe they’d been going on for quite some time. I couldn’t see them from where I was, but I could hear them thudding in the distance. Occasionally one of the few slow-drifting, dark-grey clouds would light up — it’s belly orange for a split second. But mine wasn’t a fascination of pyrotechny in action, rather it was the pre-detonated state. All of that potential so quiet, so grainy. I reached into my cup and pinched some of the fine coffee grounds lining the bottom of the cup between my index finger and thumb. Rubbing it there I considered the Hot Wells Coffee factory explosion. How unpatriotic to disturb that latent energy. How unpatriotic that we watch fireworks instead of mounds of gun powder! We should consider the mockingbird before it takes flight — sitting quietly in the tree before song bursts forth. That is the symbol that must be considered, but perhaps after another cup of coffee.